April 14, 2010

So some of you might know that I’ve joined a baseball team at the University I go to in an attempt to make friends.  Before I share with you about my first baseball game, let me rewind a little bit.

I don’t really play much baseball.  I just got into it quite recently.  I played a couple games for fun, but I’ve never played seriously.  My senior year in college I started a softball team where we were creamed (albeit the games were REALLY fun) each game.  Our first game we were mercy ruled in the 4th inning, losing 0-18.  Okay, so now back to Japan.

I joined a REALLY casual team.  They really just want to enjoy baseball, as do I.  When I joined their team, they told me their motto was “Let’s Enjoy Baseball!”.   They are a VERY relaxed team and don’t really practice much.  On the several weeks before our first game (the time we were supposed to practice) we had picnics and nights out together.  On our one and only scheduled practice before our first game, we decided to just rent out a gym and play basketball, dodgeball, and volleyball… essentially everything BUT baseball.  As a someone side-result of their recreational behavior is that they are the last in their league.  But hey, that’s good for me, I’m used to that anyways.

Since there weren’t many practices, I’ve been going to the batting cages.  There are tons and tons of them all over Tokyo due to the popularity of the sport.  I set the speed to around 75 km/h (approximately 45 mph).  I knew the pitchers were going to throw faster than that (not too much faster I thought), but I hit the balls pretty well, so I was pretty confident coming into the game.  Unfortunately, we were playing against one of the top teams, with the best pitcher in the league.  I was to play left field and was batting 8th in the lineup.  From left field and from the stands, the pitches didn’t seem that fast.  Then I was up.

I just let the first pitch go right passed me just to test out his pitches.  Strike one.  The next one I stared at again…in unbelief of the speed.  Strike two.  Then my teammates kept saying “SWING SWING SWING!!!” and I swung…really really late.  Strike three, out.

So yeah, apparently his pitches are at 120 km/h (approximately 75 mph) and up.  I went 0 for 4 that day.  My fielding was a little better, didn’t make any errors and caught the fly balls pretty well.  We still lost the game 1-6, but we ended the game all laughing and enjoying ourselves.

Next week we’ll be playing one of the other top teams.  Between our next game we have practice a bowling party.  Man I love my team.

1/2 of the baseball team at our picnic party under the cherry blossoms =)

By the way…I miss Matsui =(



April 1, 2010

Last year I went to Washington DC as a “Scarlet Ambassador”, tricking recruiting students in the DC/Maryland area to come to Rutgers, the school I graduated from.  During that time, I was lucky enough to see the sakura’s (cherry blossom’s) in full bloom in DC.  I enjoyed being able to experience a little bit of Japanese culture back in America, since at that point, I’ve been back from my short stay in Osaka for almost a year.

Now here I am in Japan, experiencing the sakura festivities.  And it is beautiful.  With sakura tree’s so prominent alongside the roads, the streets of Tokyo are beginning to look more and more like a nice fluffy pink cloud.  I can’t explain to you how happy I am, taking my bike ride to work and walking to campus.  During my first baseball practice, we played in a field surrounded by sakura tree’s.  It was just so beautiful.  What’s even more amazing?  A student told me that they aren’t even fully bloomed yet, only about 70%.  “Wait till you see them on the weekend” he said.

Last night, a couple of the CCC staff went out to the park for “お花見 (ohanami)”, literally translated (I think) to “looking at flowers”.  The brightly lit moon provided the sakura a nice soft light, making it look even more pretty.  Walking passed all the other drunk college kids enjoying their ohanami, we dropped our bags near some monkey bars and enjoyed ourselves.  The staff taught us how to spin around on them as we all laughed at the failed attempts of each other.  I’m pretty sure there will be monkey bars in Heaven too.

After a while, I got pretty exhausted and sat down.  Yusuke, one of the staff, sat down next to me and we chatted for a bit while gazing at the sakura.  He told me about how the cherry blossoms only last for about a week or two, and only stay fully bloomed for 3 days.  He said “that’s why Japanese people love them, they are so short lived.  It makes us realize how short our lives are”.  After the three days, they just blow away in the wind.  That’s his favorite part.

It’s interesting how much this applies to things outside of sakura.  We often settle for things so short lived, temporary happiness, things that once they are gone, will only make us realize how empty and broken we are once they are gone.  Everyday I see the empty faces of business men on the train going home after another long day of work.  On my bike rides home I bike pass men stumbling out of tiny bars, trying their hardest to stand up and find their way home.  Almost every week I see an announcement on the train of delays due to “accidents”, which is a soft way of putting a person committing suicide by jumping in the tracks.

But I feel that our lives are meant for so much more.  To be loved and cared for, to have a sense of purpose in life.  As a Christian, I believe that one day, after all the cherry blossoms in this world have blown away, I’ll be together with God, the creator of each and every sakura leaf, in Heaven.  There will be a huge banquet with (I think), an ice skating rink, monkey bars, and probably sakura too.  Except these sakura will last forever.

A little shout out to one of my good friends from college, Joe,  who wrote this song in college and I’ve tried many times (humorously) to recreate.  Fleeting Happiness

“Please give me eternal joy and not fleeting happiness

Don’t tell me to depend on things that will surely fade away”

He’s long removed this song from his site (it’s one of his older songs), but luckily one day in college while he was showering I took my thumb drive and stole a bunch of his original songs from his laptop.  E-mail me if you want it.

One of the roads I walk down on my way to campus each day, full of Sakura trees